Diagnostic Tests for Melanoma
Diagnostic Test list for Melanoma: The list of diagnostic tests mentioned in various sources as used in the diagnosis of Melanoma includes:
- Physical exam
- Skin exam
- Skin biopsy
- Tests for staging and metastasis:
Tests and diagnosis discussion for Melanoma: If the doctor suspects that a spot on the skin is melanoma, the patient will need to have a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to make a definite diagnosis. In this procedure, the doctor tries to remove all of the suspicious-looking growth. If the growth is too large to be removed entirely, the doctor removes a sample of the tissue. A biopsy can usually be done in the doctor's office using a local anesthetic. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Sometimes it is helpful for more than one pathologist to look at the tissue to determine whether melanoma is present.1
The doctor also does a careful physical exam and, depending on the thickness of the tumor, may order chest x-rays; blood tests; and scans of the liver, bones, and brain.1
Because melanoma usually begins on the surface of the skin, it often can be detected at an early stage with a total skin examination by a trained health care worker. Checking the skin regularly for any signs of the disease increases the chance of finding melanoma early. A monthly skin self-exam is very important for people who have any of the known risk factors, but doing skin self-exams routinely is a good idea for everyone.
Here is how to do a skin self-exam:
After a bath or shower, stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lighted room. Use a hand-held mirror to look at hard-to-see areas.
Begin with the face and scalp and work downward, checking the head, neck, shoulders, back, chest, and so on. Be sure to check the front, back, and sides of the arms and legs. Also, check the groin, the palms, the fingernails, the soles of the feet, the toenails, and the area between the toes.
Be sure to check the hard-to-see areas of the body, such as the scalp and neck. A friend or relative may be able to help inspect these areas. Use a comb or a blow dryer to help move hair so you can see the scalp and neck better.
Be aware of where your moles are and how they look. By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what your moles look like. Look for any signs of change, particularly a new black mole or a change in outline, shape, size, color (especially a new black area), or feel of an existing mole. Also, note any new, unusual, or "ugly-looking" moles. If your doctor has taken photos of your skin, compare these pictures with the way your skin looks on self-examination.
Check moles carefully during times of hormone changes, such as adolescence, pregnancy, and menopause. As hormone levels change, moles may change.
It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away. Remember, the earlier a melanoma is found, the better the chance for a cure.
In addition to doing routine skin self-exams, people should have their skin checked regularly by a doctor or nurse specialist. A doctor can do a skin exam during visits for regular checkups. People who think they have dysplastic nevi should point them out to the doctor. It is also important to tell the doctor about any new, changing, or "ugly-looking" moles.2
Diagnosis of Melanoma: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to diagnosis of Melanoma:
- Australia’s cancer death rate is low but incidence of new cancers is relatively high
- Cancer deaths take over deaths caused by heart disease
- Skin cancer rate increasing in Australia
1. excerpt from What You Need To Know About Melanoma: NCI
2. excerpt from What You Need To Know About Moles and Dysplastic Nevi: NCI
Last revision: June 2, 2003
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